USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE 11), conducted an underway replenishment (UNREP) with a Royal Malaysian Navy ship in the South China Sea, April 7.
The Washington Chambers, a Lewis and Clark-class ship, transferred about 5,000 gallons of fuel to KD Lekiu (F30), a Lekiu-class frigate of the Royal Malaysian Navy.
The ability to UNREP Lekiu allows the ship to increase its range and transit further east in support of this year’s Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC 2018). The U.S. Pacific Fleet-sponsored RIMPAC exercise, the world’s largest international naval exercise, is held biennially in the summer months of even numbered years in waters around the Hawaiian Islands and southern California.
“Ultimately, this event helped the Malaysian Navy prepare Lekiu for success when they participate in RIMPAC exercise later in the year,” said U.S. Navy Capt. John D. Wilshusen, commodore of MSC Far East in Singapore. “It also opens the door for more local events like this in the future, and we look forward to the chance to work with the highly professional Malaysian Navy team again soon.”
Although MSC conducts hundreds of UNREPs a year, these events are inherently dangerous and replenishing a foreign vessel presents its own unique challenges.
“This replenishment event provided the U.S. Navy an excellent opportunity to further improve interoperability with an important partner in the region,” said Wilshusen. “Logistic support is one of the most challenging areas for partner nations to develop mutually supporting capabilities; the unique nature of individual ship construction, operational training, and even language differences can make it a tall hurdle to get across.”
At the beginning of the four-hour UNREP, the Washington Chambers transferred four members of its UNREP/Safety Team to the Lekiu by organic, rigid hulled, inflatable boat.
The Washington Chambers’ UNREP/Safety Team aboard the Lekiu was key to the successful results of the event. The Washington Chambers had real-time communication and a straightforward understanding of each step of the replenishment process aboard the Lekiu.
Underway replenishments of allied partners also present a unique opportunity to strengthen partnerships and exercise compatibility of logistics systems.
“We have worked alongside our Malaysian Navy counterparts for many years, participating in numerous exercises and training events,” said Wilshusen. “Events such as this one give both sides the chance to develop advanced skills and capabilities under controlled conditions, while allowing additional emphasis on safety and procedural compliance that might not be possible in a crisis situation.”
The USNS Washington Chambers is currently operating in the U.S. Navy 7th fleet area-of-responsibility.